A Song Is Born

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This article is about the 1948 film. For the song, see A Song Is Born (song).
A Song Is Born
A Song is Born poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Howard Hawks
Produced by Samuel Goldwyn
Written by Billy Wilder (story)
Thomas Monroe (story)
Harry Tugend (uncredited)
Starring Danny Kaye
Virginia Mayo
Steve Cochran
Benny Goodman
Louis Armstrong
Tommy Dorsey
Lionel Hampton
Charlie Barnet
Mel Powell
Music by Hugo Friedhofer
Emil Newman
Cinematography Gregg Toland
Edited by Daniel Mandell
Production
  company
Samuel Goldwyn Productions
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release date(s)
  • October 19, 1948 (1948-10-19) (Premiere-New York City)[1]
  • November 6, 1948 (1948-11-06) (U.S.)[1]
Running time 113 minutes
Country United States
Language English

A Song Is Born (also known as That's Life)[2] is a 1948 Technicolor musical film remake of the 1941 movie Ball of Fire with Gary Cooper, starring Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo. It was directed by Howard Hawks from an original story by Billy Wilder, produced by Samuel Goldwyn and released by RKO Radio Pictures.

Filmed in Technicolor, it featured a stellar supporting cast of musical legends, including Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, and Benny Carter. Other notable musicians playing themselves in the cast include Charlie Barnet, Mel Powell, Harry Babasin, Louis Bellson, Al Hendrickson, The Golden Gate Quartet, Russo and the Samba Kings, The Page Cavanaugh Trio, and Buck and Bubbles. Other actors include Steve Cochran and Hugh Herbert.

Plot[edit]

Mild-mannered Professor Hobart Frisbee (Danny Kaye) and his fellow academics, among them Professor Magenbruch (Benny Goodman), are writing a musical encyclopedia. In the process, they discover that there is some new popular music that is called jazz, swing, boogie woogie or rebop, introduced to them by two window washers Buck and Bubbles. The professors become entangled in the problems of nightclub singer Honey Swanson (Virginia Mayo). She needs a place to hide out from the police, who want to question her about her gangster boyfriend Tony Crow (Steve Cochran). She invites herself into their sheltered household, over Frisbee's objections. While there, she introduces them to the latest in jazz, with which they are unfamiliar, giving the film an excuse to feature many of the best musicians of the era. The songs they play include "A Song Is Born", "Daddy-O", "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You", "Flying Home", and "Redskin Rumba".

Eventually, Tony comes by to collect Honey, but by that time, she and Hobart have fallen in love. And the finale, of course, is not decided by guns but by music, its resonance and reverberation.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Kaye's personal writer/composer, Sylvia Fine, who also happened to be Kaye's wife, refused to take part in any more of his projects because Kaye had recently left her for actress Eve Arden. Kaye didn't want anyone else writing songs for him, so he simply did not perform any songs in the film.[3][4]

Hawks had almost no interest in the film, and only came to work on it because of the $250,000 paycheck. When speaking of the film, he said "Danny Kaye had separated from his wife, and he was a basket case, stopping work to see a psychiatrist [every] day. He was about as funny as a crutch. I never thought anything in that picture was funny. It was an altogether horrible experience." [3]

Release[edit]

A Song Is Born was the number one film in the country from the time of its release until November 1948, while Hawks's other film (and in his opinion, best) Red River, was second.[3] However, A Song Is Born never broke even, only earning about $2.2 million, while Red River went on to gross $4.1 million.[4] It was shown on American Movie Classics, hosted by Nick Clooney, and has been released on home video in both VHS and DVD formats.[5]

References[edit]

External links[edit]